By Michele Brittany, a West Coast Bleeding Cool Correspondent
Founded in 2003 by Michael Turner, Aspen Comics is one of the larger publishers on the West Coast with their flagship titles being the long-running series, Fathom and Soulfire. Saturday afternoon several of the publishers' key personnel were on hand for the Official Aspen Comics Long Beach Comic Expo Panel in which they presented current and upcoming titles.
Co-owner Frank Mastromauro first ran through the current titles that would be familiar to Aspen Comics readers. Lola XOXO written and illustrated by Siya Oum who worked on Charismagic and Executive Assistant: Iris, creates a post apocalyptic tale hand colored and hand drawn. The six-issue series started up in April and readers can expect to see the third issue out on shelves next month. Fans of Jirni saw the launch of the first issue of volume two this month. Writer J.T. Krul and artists Paolo Pantalena lead the creative team that continues to follow the character, Ara, in this fantasy adventure story. And, Fathom and Soulfire titles will each have their own 48-page annual issues released this summer.
Mastromauro then introduced the audience to two new titles: Damsels in Excess and The Zoo Hunters. Aspen Comics' already released issue #0 for both titles via their free comic book in honor of this year's FCBD. Damsels in Excess is the story of five princesses in five realms in a kind of reality show format that often breaks the fourth wall according to writer/creator Vince Hernandez, who was present at the panel. He also stated that Mirka Andolfo's artistic style compliments the series nicely. The first issue will be out July 23. The other new title, The Zoo Hunters, is written and illustrated by Aspen Comics co-owner Peter Steigerwald. The intergalactic story follows Abros, who travels the galaxies capturing animals for zoos located on various planets. According to Steigerwald, who was part of the panel, the first issue will debut this October.
Fans of BubbleGun can expect an exclusive digital release on June 18, while Mastromauro admitted that he is running a little behind schedule with titles Shrugged 2 and Overtaken. And readers of Executive Assistant: Iris can expect some news on this series in the near future, but Mastromauro did not elaborate.
In addition to comic books, Aspen is celebrating the 10-year anniversary of Fathom Kiani with Michael Turner's prints remastered by Steigerwald. New poster-sized prints are being released approximately every two weeks. The beginning of each month sees the release of a Michael Turner Series print as well. Both print series are available at the online Aspen Comics Store.
With a few minutes to spare, the panel solicited questions from the audience. Writer David Wohl was asked about future stories for Executive Assistant: Iris. Wohl stated that the next volume will be picked up by another writer but could not reveal whom that writer would be. Wohl will continue his series Shadow of the Clan in which the second volume starts up a couple of months after the close of volume one. In volume two, the characters head to Japan. A follow up question was asked if there will be any spin-off stories for the various characters in the series. Wohl thought that would be a cool idea.
BubbleGun writer Mark Roslan fielded a question about his decision to end volume one hinting at a larger story arc than was revealed. Roslan said he wanted to close some of the loose ends in volume one so others could be pursued if a second volume is scheduled, which at this time, is not.
A couple of attendees asked when they could see new Aspen Comics merchandise, such as t-shirts and lanyards. Mastromauro said the Aspen team was working on it. Hernandez added that the Aspen Comics Facebook page was an excellent forum for fans to vocalize their thoughts and suggestions, such as on merchandise they would like to see Aspen develop and carry. Mastromauro tantalized the audience by revealing that Roslan was working on something that will debut at SDCC.
Hernandez fielded a question about the possibility of crossover stories in the Fathom universe. He said he could see that happening, but cautioned that the various series stories would have to "grow organically" together into a crossover that was cohesive and logical to the series. He also hinted that Aspen is planning some sort of "resource books" for Fathom created 2003 and Soulfire created in 2004, since both had a minimum of a decade's worth of stories.
The final question posed to panel asked how accessible the Fathom and Soulfire annuals will be for readers. Mastromauro expressed he had been concerned the stories in the annuals would be beyond a reader unfamiliar with the series, so a Michael Turner "primer" was added so new readers would not be lost in the annuals. Hernandez said the stories contained in the annuals would include references to the original source stories, however he believed that new readers would enjoy the annuals as stand-alone titles.
Look for all these Aspen Comic titles this summer at your local comic book shop, or navigate to the Aspen Comics store online.
Michele Brittany is an independent popular culture scholar and semi-professional photographer currently editing an upcoming anthology on the influence of James Bond on popular culture. She regularly posts reviews and analysis on the spy/espionage genre on her blog, Spyfi & Superspies.